Q: Mark, if you can, give us some insight on the decision to bring Derrick on board to oversee the racing and competition side for IndyCar
MARK MILES: I can and I will, but let me first say I'm looking forward to when we have Derrick back and we have the official shirt-changing ceremony as he transitions from his Ed Carpenter Racing role to IndyCar, which is a day we're really looking forward to just after the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
So we made the decision that we really want to strengthen this organization. It's a good organization, but we've got a lot to do, and we decided to bring on the strongest horse we can find to help us with our technical and operations and racing, our product, really, and then separately to find additional leadership to help us with our commercial activities for IndyCar.
And we sort of focused on the product first and talked to lots and lots of people. We had a number of great candidates who are interested in the job. And Derrick was one of the first I spoke to. You can't read his résumé and talk to folks about his lifetime of experience without immediately having great respect for his journey in open-wheel racing from being a mechanic to owning a team and having enormous success all along the way.
So his experience is the first thing that strikes, struck me as I got to know Derrick. But then there's a lot about this person that I really like. He's straightforward; he's got great common sense. He's got the conviction of his principles and we know that he'll help make clear, firm decisions and have the strength of character to stick by them. And we've talked to a lot of people in the paddock. I know that Derrick's experience is well regarded as broadly as anybody's could be in the paddock. So we think there's a lot to do, and Derrick is the right man to lead us through it.
Q: Derrick, can you talk about the decision to join the sanctioning body?
DERRICK WALKER: Certainly. I wasn't actually thinking about working for IndyCar at first until I was invited to go to a meeting with Mark and we were talking about IndyCar and what it represented and what over the years had happened to it. And so I shared with him some of my thoughts. Little did I know that I was actually being interviewed for a job. (Laughter) But a couple of meetings later, he finally showed his cards and he said, yes, would I be interested. And it was a resounding yes.
I've obviously come from and am in the team mode. I'm from the team background. Never have crossed over to the official side. So this is for me not only an opportunity, but a real challenge that I'm looking forward to. Obviously I've been around enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the competition sports, but that doesn't deter me. I think I've had probably a good 20-odd, maybe more, 25 years of Indy car, which has really helped me a great deal, and I feel if I can give something back to the sport in whatever way that is, then I'd love that opportunity.
So long story short, that, that's what brought me here, and I'm anxious to get started.
Q: Derrick, having been on the team side all these years, do you feel at all like you're going to the dark side?
WALKER: Funny you should say that. That is a favorite quote of mine. I am going to the dark side and happily so. It is a lot to learn. Fortunately there are a lot of good people at IndyCar that have been around a heck of a lot longer on this side of the fence than me. So I expect to be on a very steep learning curve and find my place in how to influence or how to help steer the governing body.
I think when you look at the quality of the field of IndyCar, it demands a strong governing body that has a vision and the leadership that is required to match the quality of our teams. So we have a responsibility and obligation to be as good as we can as a governing body. So hopefully I can fit into that matrix somewhere there.
Q: Derrick, do you think it's important that you go out and immediately seek more manufacturers, engines, chassis? Do we need more, do you want more? Will that be one of your first assignments?
WALKER: Well, I don't know if it will be my first job. My first job will be to understand what we've currently got and how it functions from a day-to-day, and get into the long-term stuff if and when it comes up.
Certainly as far as I'm concerned, but my personal opinion is IndyCar is about competition. So unless there's a very good reason not to have more manufacturers or more of everything that helps make competition happen, I think that would be missing the point. That's the history of Indy car, and the sooner we can get more guys in battling it out there, the sooner the fans are going to be interested in what we're doing. The fans come, the companies come, and everybody hopefully enjoys what we do and makes money doing it.
First of all, congratulations, condolences, however you want to take it. To whom do you answer, and is there more than one person?
WALKER: Well, I report directly to Mark (Miles). And so far that's all he's told me I need to worry about, is keep an eye on him. (Laughter) No, my direct superior is Mark and that's more than enough, I'm sure.
Derrick, you've had a black driver and a female driver, and so you've covered the whole length of what can take place in racing. What is it you visualize is most needed now?
WALKER: Good question. I mean, I think there's a lot – from my perspective being on the other side, we tend to really hit hard on almost everything in our sport. We're our worst enemy in some respects. We're very, very critical about everything we do. We tend to pull it down probably further than it needs to be. I think there's a lot of good things that are in IndyCar. There's the competition, arguably, you could say, when you look at what's happening on the racetrack, it couldn't be better.
So it's not a major change, it's like everything in racing, it's an evolution. We've got to continue to strive to be better and in every way, our decision-making, our planning, our safety concerns and how we address those. There's a whole number of things that, as I said earlier, is the responsibility and the obligation of people in the front office who's steering the ship. But I don't think there's anything more than that really, just be as good as we can.